Common drug offers fertility hope for women with obesity

26 May 2022

Researchers may have found a solution to improving fertility in women with obesity, following a successful trial in mice using diabetes medication to reduce blood glucose levels.

The University of Queensland study found the common type 2 diabetes medication, Dapagliflozin, altered reproductive hormones in obese mice and could be the key to improving fertility in humans.

Professor Chen Chen, from UQ’s School of Biomedical Sciences, said the results were a promising sign, as human and mouse reproductive cycles are similar.

“After eight weeks of treatment, blood glucose levels in the mice normalised, body weight reduced, reproductive cycles recovered, and reproductive hormones and ovulation were largely restored, compared with mice that were not treated,” Professor Chen said.

“The drug we used - Dapagliflozin - is known for reducing blood glucose levels and improving other biomarkers of metabolic health, but its effects on reproductive health and fertility have yet to be fully investigated.

“Our findings suggest that normalising blood glucose metabolism with Dapagliflozin in obesity may be a promising route for restoring reproductive function, at the very least.”

Many women with obesity experience fertility issues and altered levels of reproductive hormones, and Professor Chen said this might be linked to changes in energy metabolism, which altered reproductive hormone levels and disrupted the menstrual cycle and ovulation.

“People with obesity also have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and often have high blood glucose levels, as well as other metabolic changes, which further complicates matters,” he said.

“Findings from this study in mice shows that Dapagliflozin has the potential to improve fertility in women when no other successful therapy is currently available. Such treatment could then go onto improving quality of life for many women.

“Our findings are encouraging, but much more work needs to be done to confirm that these findings can be replicated in women.”

Researchers will now investigate the therapeutic benefits of using Dapagliflozin to improve reproductive function by examining molecular pathways in women’s reproductive systems.

This study is published in the Journal of Endocrinology(DOI: 10.1530/JOE-21-0449